Farm Days: Planning

Farm Days: Planning - Small Farm Life in Alberta - Organic Flower Farm

 

Farmers talk about an “off season” and a “growing season”. And yes, it’s true that there is an “off season” of sorts, I’m finding with each year that our off season is still busy. Busy planning & prepping for the next growing season. In part, it might be because we have been starting our small farm from the ground up. Quite literally. There was nothing already in place to begin our farm except for the land. Not even perimeter fencing or a road. And don’t get us started on the soil itself…

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Farm Days: We’re Hiring!

Wanted: Garden Gnome to work on a small Alberta farm

It’s true! On our farm biz side of life, we are HIRING! We are currently looking for a student*, or garden gnome, interested in working on our farm. We deliver product to Calgary and the surrounding area, as well as are opening a trust-based on-farm store in 2018.

Primary job duties will revolve around the market garden and orchard. A great deal of the job is weed identification and manual removal; but plenty of opportunities for general labour, washing and bagging vegetables, and chasing cows or chickens will present themselves.

Pop by the website for more info!

And if you’re just interested in visiting our farm or coming out for the day to lend a hand, definitely contact us! We’d love to hear from you!

*This is a grant supported job for students. Highschool or postsecondary. Trades and vocational schools work fine too, as does upgrading

Roots & Connections

Roots & Connections: One story of how our past finds its place in our present

 

Throwing it waaaay back today. A glimpse of my sweet mama as a child {circa 1950ish}, in her Grandpa’s greenhouse.

Sometimes I don’t really think about how far back my “green thumb” roots go, but it hit me one day standing in the fields this summer on our farm. And I remembered some old photos of my mom in the family greenhouse.

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Farm Days: Storm Watching

Farm Days: Life in a Trailer ~ The story of starting a small farm in Alberta

 

It’s a very different “home sweet home” these days.

A 27′ trailer, our five-year old, my husband and myself, plus two cats. All born and raised in the city. Add in a small generator, some patio furniture, a catio, and a fire pit. Now a good heaping of sweat, dirt covered hands and feet, and laughter. A dash of faith, stewardship, and creation care.

It’s our recipe for the summer.

Good enough is perfect, everyday.

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Local Food Movement

150 Faces of YYC Growers ~ Local Food Movement

Ever heard of urban farming? What about the local food movement? There’s been a lot going on to increase awareness about eating local and supporting local producers & makers. Hubby and I are proud to a part of YYC Growers and Distributors through our small farm business, Happiness By The Acre. YYC Growers is a farmer/producer owned cooperative here in Calgary, with the vision for sustainable food that is delicious, healthy, fresh and supports community issues like environmental footprints, food security & food democracy.

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From Weed To Yummy

Confession: Our backyard is a sea of dandelions.

They’ve taken over any area that we left as lawn. In past years, we tried pulling, mowing, even spraying them with vinegar (we refuse to spray any chemicals). This year, I’ve given up and I’m treating them like just another crop to harvest.

Dandelions are such a cheerful thing to harvest.
Dandelions are such a cheerful thing to harvest.

Here’s some tips I’ve found handy so far:

  • If using the greens, harvest fresh or no more than a day before. They keep in the fridge, but they really are best eaten as soon as possible.
  • When preparing to de-petal the dandelions, pick them no more than a couple hours prior. They are easiest to de-petal when the blossom is big and open. Dandelion blossoms tend to close up and wilt very quickly. In general, I pick a big bowl of blossoms right before making dinner and then 2-3 hours later, after Sam heads to bed, I get comfy on the couch & start to de-petal the blossoms. You can still de-petal dandelions even after they close up, but it’s just a trickier task.
  • Dandelion petals can be frozen! Once you de-petal the blossoms, pop them into a freezer bag or container (I measured out 1 cup bags). This makes life easier when you want to tackle bigger dandelion projects (like dandelion wine) or if you only have a small crop of dandelions and therefore have to combine multiple harvest days to accumulate enough petals.
  • I tried washing the dandelion blossoms, letting them dry, and then de-petaling. It was kind of a fail. Now I don’t even worry about washing the blossoms to de-petal them. You can clean off any bugs you come across while you de-petal each one. Our yard is chemical free, and pet-free, so I just don’t worry about it. I do wash the greens in cold water after I harvest them (just treat them like any other salad greens).
  • I choose to wear rubber gloves while de-petaling. Besides my struggle with eczema on my hands, I just don’t love the sticky, &  yellow stain mess that is involved with de-petaling. Even with pumice soap, it’s tricky stuff to get off. Then again, I spend a couple hours at a time de-petaling, so maybe if you’re only doing small batches, it wouldn’t be so bad 😉
  • Fact: Children love to play with dandelions. They are an easy crop to teach kids to harvest. Sam has really enjoyed helping me pull off blossoms. Even got him de-petaling for a little bit one afternoon. So dandelion harvest time can definitely be a kid friendly task.
Dandelion petals ready to be frozen.
Dandelion petals ready to be frozen.

There are lots of interesting things to make out of dandelions. There’s a good collection of ideas & recipes on The Prairie Homestead blog. I started out simple, just making come dandelion green salads. There’s really no end of possibilities when it comes to salad combinations. Just think of some of your favourite salads or dressings, and add or substitute dandelion greens. For example, I love broccoli salad, but there’s no broccoli ready to harvest in the backyard, so I used dandelion greens instead, added my usual raisins, nuts, and cream dressing. Viola! I tend to like adding sweet things to salads made with dandelion greens, just to cut the slight bitterness of the leaves. I’m thinking strawberries and sunflower seeds next time around or maybe a sweet rhubarb dressing. Just have fun experimenting with it!

Dandelion green salad with fresh chives, raisins and pumpkin seeds. I made a simple creamy dressing of mayo, vinegar & a touch of sugar.
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives, raisins and pumpkin seeds. I made a simple creamy dressing of mayo, vinegar & a touch of sugar.
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives. I simmered dried apricots and prunes with coconut oil and a bit of water to form the dressing. Sooooo tasty!
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives. I simmered dried apricots and prunes with coconut oil and a bit of water to form the dressing. Sooooo tasty!

There are several things I want to try making with the dandelion blossoms and petals, including syrup, fried blossoms, and wine (if I’m super ambitious one week). We made dandelion cookies this week from some of the fresh petals. They were yummy and a hit with Sam. I used a recipe from the Dinner For Everyone blog. Since they are basically oatmeal cookies with dandelion petals, I want to try adding raisins to them next time around.

Cookies made from dandelion petals. Yummy, but next time I'm going to add some raisins.
Cookies made from dandelion petals. Yummy, but next time I’m going to add some raisins.

Have you ever done anything with dandelion greens or blossoms? Would love to hear about it! Also, should let you know that if you happen to be one of those lucky folks who don’t suffer from dandelion invasions in your yard (or don’t have a yard), chances are you can purchase dandelion greens from your local urban farmer or grocery store. Here in Calgary, you can check out the YYC Growers & Distributors booth at some of their upcoming farmers’ markets. Some of the greens you purchase from them might just be from our yard.

Into the Ground

It’s almost been a full week since our Happiness By the Acre Tree Planting Day out on the farm. Still feels like we’re recovering here or maybe it’s just that we’re still “on the go” so much that last weekend feels like a blur. I’m hoping that things get a little less hectic in the coming weeks, not just for my sake, but for Sammy’s. He sure has been a trooper, but some of the craziness is taking its toll.

We had an AMAZING turnout for the Tree Planting Day!! Loved that so many of our friends brought their little kiddos along too! It was a great way to share the day and build some of our first memories of the farm. We really appreciated each and every effort made by our volunteer team, big and small. There is NO WAY we could have gotten this project done without the help of family and friends. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! We will not forget the smiles or the sweat that went into planting our one acre of food forest.

Food and hand wash station (we tried to keep everyone hydrated and their bellies full)
Food and hand wash station (we tried to keep everyone hydrated and their bellies full)
This is the first event I've made a real effort to do "low impact". We used real plates, napkins & utensils (no disposables), mason jars of cold water in the cooler, and as much locally sourced or homemade food as possible. It was tricky, took a bit more work, and I cheated a bit here & there (hello broccoli salad & cans of pop), but felt super satisfied by the end of the day. Only a half full bag of garbage to throw out after feeding more than 15 people :-)
This is the first event I’ve made a real effort to do “low impact”. We used real plates, napkins & utensils (no disposables), mason jars of cold water in the cooler, and as much locally sourced or homemade food as possible. It was tricky, took a bit more work, and I cheated a bit here & there (hello broccoli salad & cans of pop), but felt super satisfied by the end of the day. Only a half full bag of garbage to throw out after feeding more than 15 people 🙂
The kiddos got much use out of these. We put them on tree watering duty. SUPER helpers!
The kiddos got much use out of these. We put them on tree watering duty. SUPER helpers!
Volunteers got to choose a tree to adopt. We've measured each tree and will send growth updates over the coming years. (Little Rylin did so well amongst all those boys. She even had fun picking up dirt, a first for her).
Volunteers got to choose a tree to adopt. We’ve measured each tree and will send growth updates over the coming years. (Little Rylin did so well amongst all those boys. She even had fun picking up dirt, a first for her).
Super helpers Joanna and Soren with their hazelnut tree!
Super helpers Joanna and Soren with their hazelnut tree!
Little helpers here & there! Thanks boys!
Little helpers here & there! Thanks boys!
We hope everyone had as much fun as Shauna! She's anxious for us to get moved out to the farm so she can come visit. Looking forward to it too, Shauna!
We hope everyone had as much fun as Shauna! She’s anxious for us to get moved out to the farm so she can come visit. Looking forward to it too, Shauna!